A prelude to tonight’s clash between Stephen Lee and Andrew Higginson, Ronnie O’Sullivan meets Peter Ebdon this afternoon, as comfortable 2/7 favourite for victory.
O’Sullivan is aiming for a fourth World Snooker Championship title, and as his full-time playing career winds down, he will be fired up to have one last hurrah that could come in the form of a Crucible triumph.
His first round opponent will pose a very real threat though, and with two victories at the over O’Sullivan to his name at the Sheffield event, Ebdon could have chances of justifying an 11/4 price to advance to the second round.
The last meeting of these players came shrouded in controversy back in 2005, when ‘Rocket Ronnie’ took exception to what he perceived as deliberately slow tactics from his opponent.
Ebdon insists that the slow nature of his play is unintentional, but he could frustrate O’Sullivan again in this tie.
Meanwhile, tonight’s match appears a straightforward passage of progression for 2/7 Stephen Lee, well back on form, against 11/4 chance Andrew Higginson.
Lee conquered Higginson in a recent Players Tour Championship semi-final outing, and that match came as a prelude to a 4-0 final victory over impressive Australian Neil Robertson.
An impressive season has also seen him exit the German Masters and China Open at the semi-final stage, whilst he made the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, and was a beaten finalist in the World Open at the hands of Mark Allen.
With such a strong campaign under his belt so far in 2012, Lee looks good to record a dominant success en route to the second round of the Crucible tournament, which he has yet to record a very respectable finish in.
This could be his best chance of doing so, and the 8/13 odds for the experienced 37-year-old to win giving up a 2.5 frame start could be worth investing in.